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The Restoration Period Of Jonathan Swift English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1211 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Jonathan Swift was born in the Restoration Period and reflects it in his verbal violence, hyperbole, and explicit sexual and excretory terms” (Rogers, 1987, p. 231). Rogers’ explanation to Swift’s writing is revealing. A number of people seem to not know who Jonathan Swift was; what he wrote; what he did; anything. They had been missing out on one of the best satirists of his day, possibly all time. From his satires of England ruling Ireland to his satires of Man’s weakness, he created some of the greatest stories anyone has ever read or heard.

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Jonathan Swift lived from 1667-1745. Swift was born in Dublin and lived in Ireland for most of his life, but his parents, Abigail Erick and Jonathan Swift, were English. His father was an attorney at King’s Inn. His father died seven months before he was born, which led many to speculate that it had an influence on his writing (Group, 1998, p. 190). He was very sick as a child and developed Meniere’s disease, which affects the inner ear. He lived with his nurse in England for a few years when he was young due to his mother’s meager earnings (Merriman, 2008).

After his stay in England, Swift went back to Ireland and lived with his uncle who sent him to Kilkenny Grammar School from 1674 to 1682 where he met William Congreve. He then received a M.A. degree from Oxford University in 1692. He attended Trinity College in Dublin the following years. Trinity College almost denied him his degree due to misconduct (Kilvert, 1997, p. 1196).

He was ordained as a priest in 1694. He was employed as a secretary to Sir William Temple (Rogers, 1987, p. 231). In 1695, he became Prebend of Kilroot. He first published under the pseudonym Lemuel. By 1700, he became Chaplain to Lord Berkley. He was awarded his Doctor of Divinity degree in 1701 (Kilvert, 1997, p. 1196-1197).

At age thirty-seven, Swift published A Tale of a Tub and Battle of the Books. As he grew older, he became more involved with political issues and his satires became more savage (Merriman, 2008). Part of this was the many scandals and “behind-closed doors” activities of the aristocracy (Rogers, 1987, p. 231). He published Gulliver’s Travels at age sixty, which has been adapted to both stage and film, and spawned multiple sequels. In 1728, a woman he had been a mentor to, and some believe a lover, died, resulting in a decline in Swift’s health. Swift donated a third of his income to charity and when he died, left all his money to build a hospital. He was quite philanthropic for the time he lived in (Wikisource, 2010).

Section 3

In 1667, the Dutch fleet defeated the English in Medway River. The treaties of Breda among Netherlands, England, France, and Denmark were made. The following year, a triple alliance of England, Netherlands, and Sweden formed against France and Newton built his first reflecting telescope (Group, 1998, p. 191). During the new decade, the Secret Treaty of Dover between Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France to restore Roman Catholicism to England was made. From 1672-1674, the third Anglo-Dutch war continued. William III became ruler of Netherlands the same year. By 1673, Test Act aimed to deprive English Roman Catholics and nonconformists of public office. 1675 saw the construction on St. Paul’s Cathedral begin (Rogers, 1987, p. 231). In 1677, William III, ruler of the Netherlands, married Mary, daughter of James, Duke of York, and heir to the English throne. Two years later, Act of Habeas Corpus passed, forbidding imprisonment without trial and Parliament’s Bill of Exclusion against the Roman Catholic Duke of York was blocked by Charles II (Merriman, 2008).

The Whigs reintroduced the Exclusion Bill and James II was King of England and VII of Scotland. Johann Bach was born the same year. James II disregarded the Test Act and appointed Roman Catholics to public office. Then he issued the Declaration of Liberty of Conscience, which extended toleration to all religions (Group, 1998, p. 191). England had its ‘Glorious Revolution’ and Parliament issued Bill of Rights and established a constitutional monarchy in Britain. William III and Mary II became joint monarchs of England and Scotland until 1694. The Toleration Act granted freedom of worship to dissenters in England (Rogers, 1987, p. 231). Over in America, the Salem Witch Trials began in Massachusetts. 1707 brought about the union of Scotland and England to form Great Britain (Merriman, 2008).

Section 4

Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of a Tub, A Modest Proposal, Battle of the Books, Bickerstaff-Partridge Papers, The Drapier Letters, The Journal to Stella, Writings on Religion and Church Vol. 1, Three Sermons and Prayers, and English Tongue are all written by Swift. Perhaps Swift wrote the satires he did because of growing up in such an arduous time and place in Ireland. Being a poor child, with no father, and being under English rule would certainly influence most writers.

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A Modest Proposal is a satire of the English rule of Ireland in which Swift forms a calculated decision to have certain people be designated “breeders” whose children would be eaten for the good of the people. “Clearness, cogency, masculine simplicity of diction, are conspicuous in the pamphlet, but true creative power told the Tale of a Tub. “Good God! What a genius I had when I wrote that book!” was his own exclamation in his latter years. It is, indeed, if not the most amusing of Swift’s satirical works, the most strikingly original, and the one in which the compass of his powers is most fully displayed” (Britannica, 1911).

Gulliver’s Travels is a story about a man who becomes a doctor, travels around the world on ships, and learns new information about different kinds of culture. However, the main focus of the story is when the ship, on which he resides, crashes into a rock and he swims to shore, passing out a mile onto the island. When he awakens, he discovers he has been bonded to the ground with rope and that the inhabitants of the island are only six inches tall! Their king then sends for him to be brought to the kingdom and this is where his satirical abilities begin to show.

Section 5

            Jonathan Swift, despite his childish sense of humor, manages to poke fun at the aristocracy and show the commoners through allusions and hidden references what their superiors are really like. Gulliver’s Travels is one of the best books and finest satires by any author. The use of fake events in the story, which just so happen to relate to a real life event that happened between the Whigs and Tories in England, was genius.

            Swift had a troubled childhood to say the least, not as strange as Edgar Allan Poe’s, but certainly not normal. He had an interesting life crammed with religion, but not love. His, as some believe, love died a few years before he did. He wrote more works than a lot of authors and published quite a few under pseudonyms. Jonathan Swift, in many minds, holds the title of “Greatest Satirist of All Time.”


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